Anne Arundel County residents turned out in droves for the first day of early voting in Maryland as serpentine lines surprised the county's election judges.
Thursday marked the first of eight days that Maryland residents can head to the polls early, and scores of voters took the opportunity to cast their ballots prior to Nov. 8.
At the Annapolis Senior Activity Center, lines still wrapped around the inside of the building as late as 6:30 p.m.
Chief Election Judge Bob Ray said that as of 6 p.m. Thursday, 1,293 people had voted.
"This is even bigger than the Obama election," he added.
Rob Steinen, a 43-year-old Eastport resident, was one of those who took advantage of the opportunity.
He said he's an emergency medical technician who works in Charles County and wouldn't have been able to vote on Nov. 8 because of his schedule.
Steinen voted for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and said he wasn't concerned with the down-ballot races.
"They're both bad," he said of Trump and her Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton.
"But I just trust Trump a little more," he added. "I didn't like Benghazi. I didn't like the emails."
Ray said the minimum wait time to vote at the center was about an hour and that had held steady throughout the day. He said 48 people were already at the door to the polls by 8 a.m. and it only increased as the day continued.
But he said he was thankful the eight days of early voting would help to ease the strain on election officials gearing up for Election Day proper.
"If this mob had shown up on Nov. 8, it would be impossible," he said.
Earlier in the day at the Glen Burnie Regional Library, a line wrapped around the location's entrance ramp and onto the lawn. At about 11:30 a.m., people were struggling to find parking spaces, and officials inside the library worked diligently to address any issues voters had.
Ahmed Taimah, a Jordan-born immigrant from Linthicum, stood toward the back of the line in Glen Burnie as the clock approached noon.
The 54-year-old man said he was voting for Democrats all the way down the ballot, but made a point as to why he supported Clinton.
"I'm voting to have peace, and we need to respect one another," Taimah said.
Not too far from him was Margaret McNutt, a 69-year-old from Severn.
She said she'd previously tried to participate in early voting in Odenton during the 2012 election, but she decided not to because she saw a long line and believed Barack Obama was going to win the election regardless of her vote.
This year was different.
"I'm voting for Trump because he's a businessman," McNutt said. "I can't stand Clinton. She's a liar. She's a cheater."
She believes that the Democratic candidate would be an extension of her husband, Bill Clinton, and wants to stop that from coming true.
"As a Christian, I think he should've totally been impeached," McNutt said of the former president.
Inside the library, a group of election judges hustled between polling stations to help residents understand the voting system. The state adopted a new paper-based voting system in which voters mark and scan paper ballots.
Election Judge Tina O'Reilly said there hadn't been any issues with the system itself, but she was surprised by the turnout Thursday morning.
"I don't think anybody expected this," she said. "Forty-five people (were here) before we even opened the doors (at 8 a.m.)."
She said the county Board of Elections did expect a larger turnout at most of the county's five early voting centers. Executive Director Joe Torre said he was expecting a turnout of 85 percent of the county's registered voters for the election overall, spurred by a contentious presidential election.
Torre said Thursday was "busy, but not bad" and that an unofficial total of 8,197 residents took part in Thursday's early voting. During the primaries, nearly 28,000 county residents voted prior to Election Day, a record for the county since early voting was adopted in 2008.
While residents fit into a small room in the back of the library, O'Reilly said one woman told her she waited about 45 minutes before she was able to cast her ballot.
Outside, judicial candidates Claudia Barber and Glen Klavans were campaigning and speaking with voters about the race for Anne Arundel's 5th Circuit Court.
Klavans, one of the county's four sitting judges running to retain their seats, said he believes the seven down-ballot questions — six related to the county and one from the state — could be adding to the wait.
O'Reilly said many people questioned whether they could skip some of the down-ballot races and questions.
Meanwhile, Taimah continued to inch forward in line as he waited for his chance to cast his vote.
Murmurs elsewhere in the line started to raise the possibility of waiting up to an hour-and-a-half to get in the building. Taimah, participating in early voting for the first time, shrugged it off.
"Even if it takes seven hours," he said.